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Exercise Challenge – Yoga

What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient set of beliefs in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions that strive towards spiritual discipline. In the West, yoga is less understood for its spiritual component and more commonly known as a physical workout of specific poses, or asanas.

It’s actually not just something you “do” but something that you practice strengthening, relaxing, and energizing your body and mind. Any person can practise yoga, from Asana practice to meditation and breathing.

Yoga can be a method of physical exercise, a way to reduce and manage stress, a means of healing an illness or injury, or a path to spiritual fulfilment and peace.

Think about which components of wellness you want to work on, such as strength, flexibility, stamina, anxiety, and depression. You might also want to practice for your general well-being.

Don’t worry! You can’t get yoga wrong!

There are different styles and ways to practice yoga and there will always be more experienced yoga practitioners than you. It’s important to remember that yoga is neither a competition nor a traditional sport, but a personal practice of mindfulness, relaxation, and physicality that is meant to enrich your life and body. There is no right or wrong way to do yoga.

Anyone can practice and benefit from yoga and incorporating it into your daily routine, even for 10minutes a day, can improve your physical and mental wellbeing. Remember that yoga is more about the flexibility of the mind and not the flexibility of the body, and every person has different abilities so focus on yourself, and don’t compare yourself with others.

What you will need to do yoga
You don’t actually NEED to have any equipment to do Yoga but there are a few items that make it more comfortable:

  • Yoga mat – look for a mat that is cushioned and non-slip
  • Yoga belt, yoga block and a large blanket
  • Comfortable breathable clothing
  • A comfortable place with plenty of room to move and some way to close yourself off to the outside world. And be sure to warm up first before starting yoga.

Remember if you are on a budget, you don’t have to go out and buy yoga specific items, you can use blankets, towels and cushions from around your home to make yourself more comfortable.

There are two factors to consider while doing yoga.

1. Learn a few asanas (yoga poses)

There are a wide variety of yoga poses, or asanas, that one can practice, and they range from difficult and strenuous to simple and relaxing. Start your yoga practice by learning a few asanas that you can enjoy, feel comfortable executing, and which also fit your yoga goals. Hold each asana for 3-5 breaths.

There are four different types of yoga poses, standing poses, inversions, backbends, and forward bends. Try one or two from each type to balance your practice.
Standing poses include mountain pose (Tadasana), tree pose (Vrksasana), and the Warrior Series (Virabhadrasana I, II, and III).

Inversions include downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), dolphin pose, handstand (Mukha Vrksasana), and headstand (Salamba Sirsasana).

Backbends include locust pose (Salabhasana), cobra pose (Bhujangasana), and bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana).
You can add a twisting asana to neutralize and stretch your spine between backbends and forward bends if you like. Twisting poses include Bharadvaja’s twist (Bharadvajasana) or half lord of the fishes pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana).
Forward folds include seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana) and star pose (Tarasana), which is a wide-legged forward fold.

End your practice by holding corpse pose (Savasana) for 3-5 minutes. This can help stabilize your nervous system and control bodily stress. Always balance out asanas that favour one side by doing them on the opposite side.

2. Breathing
Yogic breathing, or pranayama, is one of the core skills of any yoga practice. Focusing on your breathing can deepen your asana practice, tune you into your own body, and allows you to relax.

Pranayama can help your body distribute oxygen to its different parts. The goal is to breathe deeply by inhaling and exhaling completely and in a balanced manner through your nose. For example, you would inhale for 4 breaths, hold for 2 counts, and then exhale completely for four breaths. You can vary the counts according to your abilities.

If you want to get the most out of your yogic breathing, sit upright, with your shoulders back to allow for the full capacity of breath. Breathe slowly and evenly by focusing from your stomach, pulling in your belly to expand your lungs and rib cage.

You can also try Ujjayi breathing, which can help you flow through your practice more effectively. You do Ujjayi breathing by inhaling and exhaling evenly through your nose and making a slight sound like the sea when you breathe.

As you start to get used to doing yoga a little each day…

  • Set an intention – a specific thought of something or some time to focus on during your session
  • Lengthen the time of your practice
  • Add more challenging poses – hold poses longer, go deeper into squats and lunges
  • Increase frequency of practice – if you currently do once a week, try building it up to 5 days a week over time
  • Add meditation – Meditation takes consistent practice and is an important part of yoga. Take time to find a style that suits you. Many people like to begin and their practice with a chanting mantra or meditation session.

A mantra is a Vedic hymn, word, or phrase repeated and used as a focal point for meditation. This can help dismiss distracting thoughts, focus on your breath and energy, and raise your awareness of your mind and body.

Some basic yoga poses to try if you think you are able to without injuring yourself

Extended Side Angle Pose
This strength-building pose helps maintain muscle mass and stability in your hips, sacrum, and lower back. Stand with your back against a wall if your balance is shaky. If it’s a strain to reach the floor, use a block under your hand to help open the chest and lift the torso.

Half Moon Pose
Half Moon Pose builds strength in your knees, hips, and ankles, which helps with balance in everyday life. Use the wall if necessary. Place a block under your hand to take some weight off your standing knee, get more lift in the top leg, and elevate the torso away from the floor.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose
If you’re tired or weak, do Down Dog with your heels against a wall. You can also support your head. If you feel like your arms are collapsing or your shoulders are sinking, rest for a few breaths in Adho Mukha Virasana (Downward-Facing Hero Pose): Come into Virasana (Hero Pose) with big toes together and knees apart, then fold forward with your chest between your legs, extending the arms forward and resting the forehead on the floor. Finally, come back to Downward Dog with the arms and legs straight and firm.

Bharadvaja’s Twist
If you have pain, stiffness, or swelling in your knees, feet, or ankles, sit sideways on a chair with your feet and knees hip-width apart and feet parallel and flat on the floor. Turn to face the backrest. Hold on to the back, and inhale and lift the sides of your chest. Exhale and turn away from your legs to get the full expression of the twist.

Head-to-Knee Pose
If you have tight hamstrings or if arthritis has given you stiff hips or knees, elevate your hips by sitting on blankets or a bolster, so the bent knee descends toward the floor. If your knees are stiff, you can place a strap or a thin roll behind the back of the bent knee, between the thigh and the calf. If you need to, you can support your head on a blanket or bolster.

Check with a medical professional before trying anything new!
Please ensure before commencing a new fitness regime or trying exercise and moves you have not done before you MUST consult your GP.

We want you to try things that bring wellness into your life – not cause injury or harm so do not attempt until you have the go-ahead from your doctor.

Recommended YouTube videos
We recommend you watch these videos on YouTube for more ideas on how you can incorporate Yoga into your life
Chair Yoga – Yoga For Seniors | Yoga With Adriene

Yoga for Seniors: Slow and Gentle Yoga | Yoga With Adriene

7-Minute Yoga Workout for Older Adults | SilverSneakers